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The Old Garden at Hidcote
There is no direct route from Hidcote to Painswick. I had been advised that the best route was to go through Moreton in Marsh, back to Cheltenham and then take the bus to Painswick. This would have been fine, but the buses out of Moreton in Marsh keep running a bit later than the ones from Cheltenham, and so of course, I was having such a good time chatting there on the bench by the lily pond that I once again forgot I needed to catch the bus. Still, I thought I could make it, but was too shy to put my thumb out and hitch a ride down the hill, aobut a mile and a half to the bus stop.
How it is that a person who accepts a ride from a stranger going uphill can’t solicit one downhill from another stranger is one of those anomalies that make the human realm so interesting. The deathly shy hermit asserts herself at the least opportune moments, I’ve found. I fully intended to hitch down to the bus, or even farther, if I could.
Once I realized I’d probably miss the bus, I figured I’d better call the B&B, because I had also forgotten to call them ahead as instructed by the booking company. No doubt Barbara at Orchard House figured she was dealing with a complete idiot. Sometimes I’m phone shy, and honestly, that’s why I didn’t call earlier. Why this happens is a mystery. I told her that I’d most likely miss the bus, but that I’d be late getting in. Then I noticed that my battery was getting low.
At Moreton in Marsh, I knew right where the Railroad Station was, because I’d come in there originally to get the bust to Chipping Campden on my first afternoon in the Cotswolds, and had stopped there to double check that there would be a train I could take if I missed the bus.
The station was locked. This is where a melt down might have happened, but was averted by the trusty smart phone. First I figured I was stuck, then I remembered that the ticket collector on several trains I’d ridden had a nifty contraption that allowed him to sell and print a ticket on the move. But what kind of ticket, and to where?
National Rail Inquiries has an app for that, of course, but I didn’t have it installed. (Hindsight has informed me that I should have purchased a multi day pass and downloaded the app.) Instead I used their site, and voila, for 22.50 and double the normal time, I could catch the next train to Stroud, which is just south of Painswick.
“That’s a crazy way to get there,” I remembered the ticket agent having said earlier in the afternoon when I’d asked if it was possible. “You have to go all the way to Reading and change trains and go back over where you’ve already been, to get to Stroud.”
I didn’t care. I’d downloaded the taxi companies serving Painswick before I left home. I didn’t need it. At Stroud I stood in the parking lot and hollered, “Anyone going to Painswick?” Why I’m bold after nine o’clock at night is beyond me. I hadn’t even had a hard cider. “No,” said the last person out of the station, “but you can catch a cab right around the corner.” And so I did. That four mile jaunt cost me another 12 pounds. Expensive day.
When I knocked on the door at Orchard House, Barbara was relieved. “We were just going over who we needed to call in an emergency, to find out what happened to you. Did you get my message?”
“No,” I replied sheepishly. I knew they would be worried. It was past ten o’clock, and I’d kept them up waiting and worrying. I’d shut the phone off to conserve batteries, which were getting low, in case I needed to use the maps feature or make another call. I never thought of calling from one of those red call boxes that are still in use here. And phones are only for calling out, right? It turns out that’s the way I’ve been using mine. I’d never thought abut receiving an incoming call.
The sidetrack to Reading turned out to be a hoot. All sorts of people decked out in suits, spiked heels and fancy feathered hats were arriving at the station and catching trains onward. Many were carrying picnic coolers. I knew something must be up, but couldn’t tell if they were coming or going, until I noticed they were not all boarding the same train.
I spotted a man in an espresso colored suit walking beside a woman in a flowing dress of swirled earth tones. Over his shoulder was a canvas picnic rig with a huge thermos, striped in shades of brown. A woman in a black and white dress with a black hat topped by bouncing, clipped feathers, was going barefoot on the dirty cobbles of the platform and carrying white spike heels. Her escort turned around, looked at her feet, and walked off in disgust, shaking his head.
The two women in dandelion yellow dresses with black feather hats and heels were more than I could take. I sidled up to them and asked if they’d been somewhere special. “We’ve all come from the Ascot races,” they replied. I asked if I could take their picture, and after some embarrassed consultation, they said okay.
What a day.